Marine debris on the city’s shoreline, comprising mostly plastic waste from the city’s homes, appears to be turning the depths of the sea into a near death-trap for its own inhabitants.
A recent incident saw a Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), listed as an endangered species by various global organisations and also on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), being trapped in a mesh formed by plastic net shreds, plastic carry bags and other garbage in the depths near the Valiathura sea pier.
Researcher Robert Panipilla and his team from the Valiathura-based ‘Friends of Marine Life’ forum, who were on a project to study and document the marine biodiversity in the region, were taken aback to find the turtle struggling to disentangle itself from the plastic trap that it had waded into.
Mr. Panipilla, who had gone snorkelling along with his British friend Paul Culvert and a few local fishermen to shoot on video the underwater marine life in the area, said there was no clue as to how long the turtle could have been trapped. “It was injured, but swam off in a hurry as soon as we managed to free it from the long knots of plastic that got tangled all over its body,” he said.
The incident, according to Mr. Panipilla, pointed to a greater danger, and one that fishermen on the coast were increasingly complaining about of late.
“Many of the fishermen here have been telling that recently, more than fish, it’s plastic that gets caught in their nets,” he said, pointing out that with more efforts on from various quarters to pump the city’s waste into the sea, shoreline fishing was being made a sitting duck for the ill-effects of all kinds of pollution, and not just plastic.
Incidents like turtles getting caught in plastic waste were not new, Mr. Panipilla said, adding fishermen had recently rescued another one from similar conditions near Shangumugham.
There was a change in approach too, with fishermen now being convinced of the need of sending these endangered species back into the sea, he said.